Ever since Robert Williams left the Boston Celtics game during the team’s 134-112 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 27, fans have been walking on eggshells when discussing his potential availability during the playoffs.
Then, on March 28, ESPN’S Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Williams had suffered a meniscus tear, and news began to circulate that there were multiple recovery timelines depending on the injury’s severity.
However, on March 30, the Celtics got a huge boost to their playoff chances. Williams underwent surgery and is expected to re-join the Celtics in the next four-to-six weeks, which should see him return to the rotation towards the end of the first round of the playoffs, or the start of the second round, assuming Boston makes it that far, per Wojnarowski.
It’s worth noting that Williams’ return date is the better of the two recovery outcomes originally outlined, as the other would have seen the breakout center sidelined until next season. Boston will now feel confident about embarking on a deep playoff run, assuming Williams has no setbacks to his recovery, and that the team avoids any further injuries to their core rotation.
Williams Was Having a Potential DPOY Level Season
When Williams first went down with injury earlier this week, the reaction of the fanbase was telling. Here is a player who also suffered an injury setback heading into last year’s playoffs, and missed 12 of the Celtics’ final 17 games due to a turf toe. However, last year, the Lousiana native’s absence was seen as a manageable blow, while this season, fans saw it as a nail in the Celtics’ coffin.
Such has been the growth and impact of Williams on this Celtics team. The center is among the league leaders in blocks per game, ranking second behind Jaren Jackson Jr, is fourth in the NBA for offensive rebounds per game, and is arguably the Celtics’ most impactful defender.
According to a recent article by Kevin O’Conner of The Ringer, “Williams possesses excellent hand-eye coordination to block or poke at the ball using either hand. And with quick-twitch acceleration, he’s able to close gaps in a blink. This season, 139 players have been the closest defender on at least 600 shots, and Williams forces opponents to shoot only 35.5 percent, the best mark in the league, according to Second Spectrum.”
The possibility of adding such an elite defender and exceptional offensive outlet back to the rotation before the midway point of the post-season is excellent news for the Celtics, as with Williams, the team can easily be considered an outside bet for making the NBA finals later this year.
Celtics Had Been Preparing For The Worst
Boston has had its fair share of injury issues in recent years, so when Williams went down, it was logical to assume the worst. Of course, without the bouncy big man patrolling the paint, there were legitimate questions surrounding the sustainability of the Celtics’ league-leading defense.
Yet, Ime Udoka sounded confident during a recent press conference and noted how he and his coaching staff would be spending the final few games of the regular season experimenting with lineups and rotations.
It will be definitely looking at different rotations and what we like and don’t like, but we kind of know what we had early in the season as far as small-ball lineups, but just to see how Daniel mixes in with Al or possibly Grant and look at possibly those combinations,” Udoka said
Luckily, the Celtics coaching staff can put some of their experiments on hold now, because any adjustments they make will only need to be short-lived. Furthermore, the presence of Al Horford, Daniel Theis, Grant Williams, and to a lesser extent Luke Kornet should be enough to see Boston through a first-round playoff matchup, assuming they don’t draw the short straw and get the Brooklyn Nets.
And if the Celtics do have to face Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant in the first round, the result is not a foregone conclusion. Whatever the future holds, the news that Williams will return within six weeks is an enormous boost to the Celtics’ chances, and to the hopes and dreams of Celtics fans worldwide.